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Car controls

Car controls

RiDC's consumer information, aimed at older and disabled people, is based on independent research and the experiences of consumers and experts. So it's completely unbiased.

Here's an overview of the types of car controls in the UK. It can help if you're adapting an existing car, buying a car to adapt, looking for specific adaptations to suit your abilities, or want to see what's possible with specialised controls.

Brig Ayd steering knobs mounted on steering wheel

In January 2017, we ran two workshops with new users of driving controls at QEF Mobility Services, Carshalton, Surrey. 
The research report, intended for professionals and advisers, has useful tips from disabled people: Primary driving controls research report, 2017 (PDF).

There's a wide range of car adaptations available and almost anyone can customise the controls on their car to meet their needs.


Adaptations range from very simple bolt-on attachments to the replacement of all the driving controls with a system individually designed for you. As long as you've enough controllable movement in any part of your body, controls can be adapted to take advantage of it.

For financial help towards the cost of equipment or car adaptation, check Finance

RiDC's research provides guidance only. We don't list all the companies that sell and fit adaptations to vehicles. Prices shown were from the time of our research. For current prices, check with Car adaptation suppliers and fitters

Our information provides:

  • an overview of the main types of car controls you can get and how you can go about getting them
  • a starting point for further discussions with Mobility Centres and adaptation companies
  • a guide, but it can't tell you what's best for you since everyone is different
  • information only: get expert advice and, for some people, an assessment of your abilities
Important: find controls that suit you rather than having to adapt yourself to the controls.

Controls are likely to be more comfortable if they:

  • are within easy reach, easy to operate and designed so that using them becomes second nature with practice.
  • don't make you pull at the elbow and rotate your hand at the same time
  • let you keep your wrist straight
  • avoid twisting the wrist in uncomfortable ways
  • are large enough to hold and spread the effort over a larger part of your hand or whatever you use for the control
  • let you use your thumb (without stretching) rather than individual fingers
  • leave enough room for your hand when you are moving the control

Get expert advice

  • Contact your nearest Mobility Centre
  • Some car adaptation suppliers and fitters can arrange a demonstration or a local installer to visit you

Primary controls

Primary controls are those that you use to accelerate, brake and steer. They may be separate or combined so that a single control works more than one operation:

Secondary controls

Secondary controls are for everything else, from the ignition, lights and indicators to heating, air conditioning and in-car entertainment.

Download this complete guide: Car controls (PDF)
Acknowledgements: This information was produced by RiDC with funding from Motability and in partnership with Driving Mobility (the network of Mobility Centres).

Last updated: September 2019

Next: Your abilities | See also: Motoring research portal | Primary driving controls research report